An aging industry

Andrew
Andrew Robinson
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Agriculture

With economic activity bustling around the province's oil and gas sector, farming opportunities for young people are seemingly overlooked - and it's showing in the demographics of farmers.

The average age of farmers in Newfoundland and Labrador is 54 according to Eugene Legge, past-president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Agriculture. For Canada, the average age is 58.

Gander -

With economic activity bustling around the province's oil and gas sector, farming opportunities for young people are seemingly overlooked - and it's showing in the demographics of farmers.

The average age of farmers in Newfoundland and Labrador is 54 according to Eugene Legge, past-president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Agriculture. For Canada, the average age is 58.

The provincial organization, representing farmers and farming groups, held its annual general meeting in Gander last week. Its theme was 2010 and Beyond.

As part of the event, a session was held to dive headfirst into the issue of ensuring young people join the farming community in order to sustain it.

Darryl Legge, a poultry farmer in Holyrood alongside his father Eugene, is the president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Young Farmers' Forum and was among those who took part in the discussion.

"We're just trying to meet with all the industry stakeholders and those who are interested in farming, government representatives, and bring them into one room and try to figure out what are the challenges."

By defining those challenges, Darryl said he hoped the group could come up with ways of overcoming them in order to open up more farming opportunities for young people.

"The increase in the age of farmers and the lack of interest among young people is a problem. I really think we really need to educate the public on how it views agriculture to be. I think some people might look down on it. Getting hold of land is difficult. And deciding what product to grow or what service you're going to give is an issue also."

Eugene Legge said there are almost too many options for young people looking to choose a career path.

"There's so many opportunities for young people, and you have to make it worth their while," he said, adding farming is an expensive profession to enter. "At the end of the year, do I work hard and make $30,000, or do I go to Alberta and make that in three months? It's a time commitment and a financial commitment. He or she has to be able to make a living and get a good return on the investment."

As a potential opportunity for young people, Darryl Legge cited the viability of agritourism, which looks to bring visitors to farms. This can involve a variety of practices - from animal feeding and picking berries to navigating corn mazes and staying overnight on the farm.

Darryl took a roundabout route to becoming a farmer. He grew up as part of a family farm, but initially wanted to find something different once he finished high school.

"When I was 17 or 18, I didn't want to spend my life on a farm, so I actually left and went to university and got a degree. Then I realized the importance of farming and the great lifestyle it can give you, and the opportunities were there, so I came back to it."

Reflecting on his teenage years, Darryl Legge said he took the farming life for granted.

"You don't appreciate it until you get out there and see other careers, and you start to realize it's not all about money," said Darryl, who produced more than 800,000 chickens last year for consumption within the province. "You've got to look at what makes you happy and what you enjoy doing for a living."

He said the freedom of operating as your own boss make his profession attractive.

"What you put into it is what you take out of it. It is hard work - there's no doubt."

The lifestyle also plays a part in keeping him in the chicken business.

"Not that there's anything wrong with it, but I'm not stuck in an office all day. You do spend some time in the office, but then you have the opportunity to go outside and use your hands. You never get bored."

Organizations: Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Agriculture, Newfoundland and Labrador Young Farmers

Geographic location: Gander, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada Holyrood Alberta

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Recent comments

  • David
    July 02, 2010 - 13:29

    The entire Avalon will be sold and re-sold until every postage stamp of land has a box on it. The main problem isn't finding famers...it's preserving agricultural land in a real estate frenzy.

    When all the consequences of this frenzy become clear, good luck being able to afford living there.

  • Taxpayer
    July 02, 2010 - 13:26

    As can be seen from the schedule of oil production in the editorial after 2025-2030 the game will be up. Then most Newfoundlanders will be moving to the mainland if they don't want to live in conditions like those before Confederation. For those left we can bulldozer the mansions in Southlands and start farming in that area again and if Fortis gets their office tower we can iuse it as a monument.

  • David
    July 01, 2010 - 20:17

    The entire Avalon will be sold and re-sold until every postage stamp of land has a box on it. The main problem isn't finding famers...it's preserving agricultural land in a real estate frenzy.

    When all the consequences of this frenzy become clear, good luck being able to afford living there.

  • Taxpayer
    July 01, 2010 - 20:12

    As can be seen from the schedule of oil production in the editorial after 2025-2030 the game will be up. Then most Newfoundlanders will be moving to the mainland if they don't want to live in conditions like those before Confederation. For those left we can bulldozer the mansions in Southlands and start farming in that area again and if Fortis gets their office tower we can iuse it as a monument.